The troubled man in question is Duncan (Ken Marino), and when we first see him he’s with his wife Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) at the doctors. The doc is conducting an ultrasound scan, but it’s not Sarah who’s receiving it, it’s Duncan. The doc (Toby Huss) tells him the strange mass they see on the screen is more than likely a polyp caused by bad stress management. It seems Duncan has had issues for almost all his life, spending up to ninety minutes in the bathroom. “Not at once - over the course of the day,” he tries to explain to the concerned physician. However, the doctor has a plan, and tells the couple about the simple procedure, “We’ll insert a camera into the anus, there’s an electrified wire loop at the end, and then we pop it off, like a plum off a tree… being pulled by an electrified wire loop”.
He’s offered some extra help to cope with the stress, and despite ‘not being a therapy guy’, Sarah takes charge and accepts the help on Duncan’s behalf. Being told to have ‘no stress’ is easier said than done for Duncan as his office job is just about to get a whole lot worse as he has been moved from being an accountant to human resources. His callous boss, Phil (Patrick Warburton, currently playing Lemony Snicket in the TV version of A Series of Unfortunate Events and perhaps best known as the voice of Peter Griffin’s neighbour Joe Swanson in Family Guy) wants him to handle the company’s layoffs since he’s a ‘nice guy’. Duncan is naturally horrified, and even more so when his new office turns out to be a not-so-refurbished toilet. His first therapy session doesn’t exactly go any better, with the shrink in question, Highsmith, (played by Peter Stormare, one of those ‘where have I seen him before?’ actors) has a sass-talking parrot and a hippy-dippy attitude.
Maybe one of the causes of his stress is his mother Beatrice (Mary Kay Place) taking up with a younger man Bobbi (Kumail Nanjiani). Their closeness at the dinner table is clearly something he’s not comfortable with. “Let me tell you,” the new beau says “this food is not the spiciest thing at the table,” as well as requesting Duncan calls him Dad. “Just don’t call me daddy - that’s reserved for someone else.” The discomfort just gets worse when Beatrice reveals she’s invited a guest of her own - a fertility doctor. Duncan’s initial response is concern that his mother is planning another child (“Not the way we do it,” deadpans Bobbi), but no, he’s been brought along to sort out why he and Sarah haven’t had any luck in the progeny department. As the evening goes from bad to much worse, he gets a call from Allistair, the guy who shares his ‘office’, to tell him that he may have accidentally deleted some important files his computer.
This is all too much for Duncan’s delicate disposition, and when they get home, he has to dash to the littlest room. As well as pebble dashing the porcelain, his straining causes him to pass out, but something has exited his back door. When he wakes in the morning, he discovers Allistair has been killed in a ‘racoon attack’. This, coupled with the trauma of having to fire a succession of employees - and palming them off with severance packages that range from keyrings to condoms - and the fertility doctor contacting him, determined to get his ‘tadpoles’ swimming, gives Duncan the impetus to give the therapist another go.
Putting him under hypnosis, some alarming home truths are revealed about Duncan’s father, whom he had dismissed as having ‘just left’ when he was a child. It’s during this session that we get to the bottom - quite literally - of Duncan’s issues. The polyp is, in fact, a small creature - an extension of himself that has a compulsion to kill those who are causing him distress. Highsmith is as fascinated as much as he is terrified. A swift look through an encyclopaedia later and he has come up with a reason - an ancient text that says this type of butt demon is an extension of the person’s subconscious and as such, if the monster is hurt or killed, it would have a dreadful effect on Duncan, something like a lobotomy. Highsmith pleads with him to attempt to bond with the little fella when it returns and before it makes its way back up the rear entry.
It’s that re-entry that puts Duncan through even more dread. Up to now, that’s been exit only and this is no small critter! But back up he goes, but not before Duncan does his best to bond, even calling the entity Milo. For what essentially is a growth from his colon and crapped out in an undignified manner, Milo’s a cute little blighter. He’s also mighty hungry, and won’t put up with any rubbish like cat food. Trying to avoid his rather obvious bloodthirsty streak, Duncan offers up one of the pet mice in his office… up his orifice, naturally. Which is also the most awkward time for a co-worker to pop in to get him for a meeting.
With the revelation about his father now ‘out there’, Duncan decides to bite the bullet and seek him out. He’s now living a solitary life in the middle of nowhere and seeing no-one. Their reunion goes badly, to say the least, ending with a particularly emotional Duncan fighting with Milo in a wooden outhouse. It’s with great reluctance that Duncan’s father agrees to attend a meeting with the psychiatrist (following a session involving sock puppets), which certainly gets to the bottom of many of the problems. While it’s a little predictable, it’s a fun revelation.
As the film builds up to its frantic conclusion, the entertainment level doesn’t drop, and the denouement leaves the story open for a sequel that will probably never happen.
Watching Bad Milo! brings to mind several others classics, without being derivative or blatantly imitative. One obvious one would be Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case (1982), certainly in the creature’s impulse to correct the problems going on in the protagonist’s life via death and destruction. Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive (1974, remade in 2009) uses a similar motive and little Milo has elements of both of these creature designs, mixed with the titular monsters from Ghoulies (1984) and, bizarrely, the cuteness of Gizmo from Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984). One common connection between them all is the use of puppetry rather than rely on CGI, something that would have completely ruined the illusion and connection we have with Milo. He’s not the first demon to have been shit into existence (step forward Monsturd and the Golgothan creature from Kevin Smith’s Dogma), but he’s certainly the most accessible, despite the razor-sharp teeth. It’s to the credit of director Jacob Vaughn and his co-writer Benjamin Hayes that the puerile nature of the premise doesn’t overtake the story. In fact, some of the best humour comes from Duncan (and the audience’s) discomfort with the many awkward conversations that happen around him, particularly in the aforementioned dinner sequence, rather than rear-end gags. Make sure you stick around during the end credits, as there are a several out-takes that show how much fun the cast had making it.
Bad Milo! also has a unique honour of being accepted and screened at the FrightFest film festival in 2014, despite it already being available (in the US) on Netflix. Rather than kick up a stink, the audience embraced the movie and its classic monster tone. One would have thought the chances of it making the grade at the prestigious event would have gone down the pan, but the organisers took a gamble and ended up flushed with success.
Despite the outlandish concept and frequent bloodshed, Bad Milo! isn’t a horror film as such. Aside from a little peril with the ‘who is going to be offed next’ stakes, what we have is actually a revenge buddy comedy with a massive difference. That’s not to say the subject matter isn’t horrific. In fact, by the very nature of the taboo-breaking element, it’s as shocking as they come.
While one would think the film would be wall-to-wall toilet humour (literally), the more ‘sensitive’ aspects of the tale are handled surprisingly delicately. We would expect the gags to be more scatological than they are, but in reality, by treating the bowel problems as matter-of-factly as possible, this odd little horror comedy actually takes this subject - something most of us would certainly shy away from discussing - and makes it as normal as it really is. By visualising (albeit in a rather outlandish way) the problem, Bad Milo! removes the embarrassment that would otherwise surround it. True, it’s still uncomfortable to imagine being so open about such issues, but just remember it’s not as uncomfortable as having a two-foot snarling demon-type creature plopping out of your anus.
Catch BAD MILO! on Horror Channel on June 18th. Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freeview 70, Freesat 138.